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Indian Supreme Court Upholds Acquittal of Two Accused in 2001 Attack on Parliament

  • Anjana Pasricha

The Indian Supreme Court has upheld the acquittal of two of the four people originally found guilty of plotting the 2001 attack on the Indian parliament. It also commuted the death sentence of a third man convicted in the case. The assault on the parliament building brought India and Pakistan to the brink of war.

The high-profile case has seen many twists and turns. Two years ago, a special anti-terrorism court sentenced three men to death for conspiring with Pakistan-based militants in the deadly assault on the Indian parliament in New Delhi. The attack resulted in the deaths of 14 people, including the five gunmen who carried out the raid.

The wife of one of the three convicted men was given a five-year prison sentence for failing to alert police about the plot.

A year later, a High Court ruling overturned the conviction of one of the men sentenced to death, and that of the woman.

On Thursday, after hearing an appeal by the Delhi Police, the Indian Supreme Court upheld the High Court ruling and let the two acquittals stand.

N.D. Pancholi is the lawyer for Syed Abdul Rehman Geelani, the man whose acquittal was upheld. Mr. Pancholi says the Supreme Court did not feel the evidence was sufficient to link Mr. Geelani to the attack.

"Suspicions cannot lead [one] to believe that he was involved in this offense - suspicion cannot lead to conviction," he said. "Supreme Court has said they have not found evidence against him to hold him guilty."

The Supreme Court also commuted the death sentence of a second convicted man, Shaukat Hussain Guru, to 10 years in prison. Mr. Guru, along with another Kashmiri Muslim, had been found guilty of waging war against India.

They were arrested in Indian Kashmir days after the attack. They did not take part in the assault, but were convicted of helping to plan it. The death sentence of the other Kashmiri was not affected by Thursday's ruling, and still stands.

Joint Commissioner of Police Karnail Singh told Indian television that the police had done their best to present convincing evidence.

"Ultimately, whatever you get you have to produce before the court. A lot of efforts were made by Delhi Police which ultimately resulted in conviction, death penalty to one of the accused," he said.

The attack triggered new tensions between India and Pakistan, which have fought three wars since their independence in 1947. New Delhi claimed the assault was led by Pakistan-based militants and supported by Pakistan's intelligence agency - a charge Islamabad strongly denied.

Both countries mobilized hundreds of thousands of troops in the months following the attack, and came close to a fourth war. Last year the rivals began talks to ease tensions.